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Friday, Apr 24, 2015
Silent protagonists will always be awkward in video games, but there’s one easy way to avoid a lot of that awkwardness. Don’t make them a leader.

Much has been written about silent protagonists in games, and whether or not their silence really aids in our immersion. However, regardless of what you think of them, they almost always share a certain important personality trait. They’re followers. From Gordon Freeman to Link to the amnesiac hero of Bioshock, the silent protagonist is one who takes orders. They’re told what to do and how to do it. This makes perfect sense. If we can’t talk, we certainly can’t give orders, so we may as well be the one taking them instead.


Battlefield 4 breaks this mold, giving us a silent protagonist that others often turn to for advice. It’s awkward, bizarre, and unintentionally funny, but also kind of fascinating when you try to piece together what exactly makes it so awkward and bizarre and unintentionally funny.


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Friday, Apr 17, 2015
We grow over the course of Battlefield: Hardline, not so much as a character, but as a performer.

Battlefield: Hardline opens with a brief shootout in a tiny room, and a frantic car chase that ends when the fleeing suspect crashes his car. Battlefield 4 opens with your team jumping/falling out of a building as a helicopter shoots it to pieces, and a frantic car chase that ends with you hanging out an open door and blowing up said helicopter with a grenade launcher before the car flips off the crashing wreckage and into the ocean.


One of these openings feels like an introduction, a brief tease of action that leaves plenty of room for escalation throughout the rest of the game. The other feels like a climax within itself.


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Friday, Apr 10, 2015
In Out There, the only enemy is the universe itself, and no one really expects the universe to be fair.

I like watching people play FTL, a roguelike space adventure in which we’re a lone ship fleeing a powerful rebel empire, but I don’t like playing it myself. The random nature of events that define a roguelike and that make it so much fun to watch also made for a frustrating and disheartening play experience. For me, at least.


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Friday, Apr 3, 2015
Coming in the wake of Ferguson and in the midst of a political discussion about militarized police, how could a game like Battlefield: Hardline, in which you play as a cop, represent anything but tacit support for a powerful police force? The answer: by not supporting the police

The first episode of Battlefield: Hardline ends with an action scene—and a cheesy joke. Nicholas Mendoza and his partner Khai are investigating a suspect’s house when they get attacked by gunmen. Khai gets shot in the shoulder, and I hold the wound closed while fending off bad guys. They blow open the front doors, then crash through the front wall with an armored truck, but I still manage to kill them all. As S.W.A.T. teams storm the house (where were you literally five seconds ago?), they find our suspect and ask me, “Who’s this?” Mendoza gives them a smile, “Him? He does spreadsheets.” Fade to black.


It’s a callback to a line from five minutes earlier, from just before the gunmen attacked. It’s a joke that’s entirely unearned: Mendoza is pretty serious up to this point, and these two men literally just met. They haven’t had a chance to grow into any natural cop/criminal buddy banter. It’s a cheesy joke that falls flat, and it’s the exact moment when I started to like Hardline.


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Friday, Mar 27, 2015
Disorder might have something profound to say, but it certainly doesn’t know how to say it -- or through what genre.

Braid made it look easy: Take one part platformer, one part puzzler, sprinkle in some “deep thoughts” between the levels, and presto—instant critical and commercial acclaim. But Braid only made it look easy. The puzzle-platformer may have become the indie go-to genre of choice in the wake of Braid‘s success, but that doesn’t mean that those kinds of games are easy to make, especially if they, also like Braid, aspire to be about something greater than their puzzles and platforming.


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